No space for our taonga

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - TOM HUNT

Welling­ton is run­ning out of space for some of New Zealand’s most im­por­tant arte­facts.

New In­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Tracey Martin has been warned by of­fi­cials that Archives NZ will run out of stor­age space for taonga in 2020, and the Na­tional Li­brary by 2030.

Be­tween them, the two in­sti­tu­tions hold $1.7 bil­lion worth of na­tional trea­sures. The fig­ure is grow­ing, ac­cord­ing to brief­ing pa­pers Martin re­ceived from the De­part­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs when she took of­fice af­ter the gen­eral elec­tion.

Taonga in­clude the likes of the Treaty of Wai­tangi, the women’s suf­frage pe­ti­tion, the 1835 Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, David Lange’s notes from the 1985 Ox­ford Union de­bate, and orig­i­nal writ­ings by Kather­ine Mans­field, as well as count­less gov­ern­ment and other doc­u­ments, publi­ca­tions, and arte­facts.

The brief­ing given to Martin shows Archives NZ, in Mul­grave St, is ‘‘at the end of its ser­vice life’’ and be­low seis­mic re­silience stan­dards.

Pres­sure on stor­age is now ‘‘crit­i­cal’’, and it has put a tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion on all phys­i­cal trans­fers to the Welling­ton fa­cil­ity.

‘‘Crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture is­sues are com­pro­mis­ing our abil­ity to ef­fec­tively pre­serve our doc­u­men­tary heritage, and to en­sure on­go­ing ac­cess,’’ the pa­pers say.

His­to­rian Tony Simp­son said it was no sur­prise that the two in­sti­tu­tions were near­ing ca­pac­ity.

Ev­ery book pub­lished in New Zealand was meant to have two copies in the Na­tional Li­brary, and pub­lish­ing rates had ex­ploded in re­cent years.

‘‘What used to be a trickle has be­come an ab­so­lute avalanche.’’

If the in­sti­tu­tions were forced to cut back pub­lic ac­cess to taonga, it could make life ‘‘very dif­fi­cult’’ for re­searchers, who re­lied upon them.

How­ever, the fact that many files were now on­line or on mi­cro­fiche meant there was still some ac­cess avail­able.

The brief­ing doc­u­ments say the pre­vi­ous Gov­ern­ment in­vested $10.1 mil­lion for plan­ning on how to deal with the ca­pac­ity and re­silience is­sues at both prop­er­ties but de­ci­sions were needed about what to do next.

Peter Mur­ray, deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive of in­for­ma­tion and knowl­edge ser­vices at In­ter­nal Af­fairs, con­firmed yes­ter­day: ‘‘Archives NZ is prac­ti­cally full and is no longer ac­cept­ing trans­fers from gov­ern­ment agen­cies who con­tinue to hold them un­til ca­pac­ity is avail­able at Archives NZ.

‘‘If there is an emer­gency is­sue, Archives NZ has ca­pac­ity at our Auck­land site, and also will have ca­pac­ity in Christchurch from mid-2018.’’

He said the Mul­grave St build­ing met be­tween 60 and 70 per cent of the new build­ing stan­dard, and was not classified as earth­quake­prone.

How­ever, this year’s Bud­get had pro­vided fund­ing for pre­lim­i­nary plan­ning to ‘‘in­crease re­silience’’, and fur­ther work would in­form Bud­get 2018.

‘‘The con­tents held at Archives NZ are be­ing well main­tained. Three im­por­tant taonga are also stored at the Na­tional Li­brary of New Zealand in state-of-the-art con­ser­va­tion cases as part of the ... He Tohu ex­hi­bi­tion.’’

These were the Treaty, the suf­frage pe­ti­tion, and the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence.

In a sep­a­rate brief­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern, who holds the arts, cul­ture and heritage port­fo­lio, Te Papa points out it has moved a ‘‘great deal of our col­lec­tion out of Welling­ton’’, be­cause of earth­quake risks.

Martin con­firmed the Bud­get in­cluded money for In­ter­nal Af­fairs ‘‘to ex­plore op­tions for Archives NZ and the Na­tional Li­brary’’.

‘‘I’ve had one brief­ing from the de­part­ment about the is­sues, and I’ll be get­ting fur­ther ad­vice and look­ing at the dif­fer­ent op­tions.’’

Be­tween them, the Na­tional Li­brary, right, and Archives NZ, above, hold $1.7 bil­lion worth of na­tional trea­sures, in­clud­ing the orig­i­nal Treaty of Wai­tangi doc­u­ment, be­low, pho­tos and let­ters from au­thor Kather­ine Mans­field, as well as many thou­sands of books.

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